One Day in North Carolina

Throwback Thursday: CBC History

Our WRAL news photographers are the best-of-the-best and have the awards to back-up that claim. Most of their news assignments do not typically lend themselves to visually artistic story-telling, but if photographers could have their druthers, they would strut their photographic stuff by picking their own subjects and have a little extra time to complete their assignment.

That day came on October 14, 1989. WRAL-TV photographers and one photographer from our then CBC sister station in Charlotte, WJZY, fanned out across the state with the directive: capture the joy, pain, excitement and warmth of the state’s people and the beauty of the countryside.

WRAL deployed Art Howard, Rick Armstrong, Jay Jennings, Mark Copeland, Lori Lair, David Creech, and Bob Sadler. WJZY sent Jodi Kratz. We caught up with two of those photographers who are still here; Jay and Rick.

Jay Jennings shares his adventures from that day:

Jay Jennings

Jay Jennings

This was back during my days as chief photographer in the newsroom. I was honored to serve a GREAT team of shooters! Some of the best in the country at the time. We pitched the project to management and got the green light. To show its commitment to the program, the station gave us a one-hour time slot!

We eventually decided it had to be fall on a weekend in October. People are out taking advantage of the spectacular weather all across our state. We have lots of big activities like the State Fair, college football, stock car racing, outdoor activities from the mountains to the beach. We eventually circled Saturday, October 14th as our shoot date.

It was hard to narrow down who would get to take part. After much discussion, we eventually we settled on WRAL news videographers Art Howard, Rick Armstrong, Mark Copeland, Lori Lair, David Creech, local production photographer Bob Sadler, and WJZY’s Jodi Kratz.

I soon realized that I was in for an absolute video marathon. Before I would begin my midnight shoot in the WakeMed ER, it was a full night of shooting for Tom Suiter and Football Friday. My personal “One Day in North Carolina” was actually going to be more like 36-plus hours!

Since we wanted to capture a 24-hour period, I thought it would be a good idea to start right at midnight. I would spend the evening in the WakeMed Emergency Room. It was State Fair weekend as well as a full moon. I would be in for a wild night watching doctors and nurses treat an endless parade of folks injured in car wrecks to heart attack victims.

I left the hospital right around 6 AM and met SKY 5 Pilot Steve Wiley for a full day of flying. Since aerial video would be a big part of the program, we would zip all across the state to support the other videographers telling their various stories. From Raleigh to New Bern (to refuel) down the coast to Wilmington where Lori Lair was shooting with the Coast Guard. It was back across the state to Charlotte to help Jodi Kratz with her piece on the NC Highway Patrol. From there we made a beeline to the mountains for David Creech’s look at Cherokee culture and lumberjack festival in Burnsville. Steve and I then flew northeast to Linville Gorge as Mark Copeland captured the Outward Bound experience. As night fell, we hightailed back to the Triangle. We got an aerial shot of Orange County Speedway for Art Howard’s story on stock car racing. Back in Raleigh, SKY 5 flew over the State Fair where Rick Armstrong was shooting. We ended our full day of flight with video of WakeMed.

I love shooting aerials from SKY 5 but this was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Steve and I flew over a big chunk of North Carolina that day. I hit the wall at some point late in the morning. I was able to grab little naps between locations. When it was all said and done, we flew from 6 AM until 10 PM…16 hours!

With almost no real rest in 30-plus hours, I loaded my gear and drove to Wake Med. We had arranged with the hospital and a couple of expectant parents to record the birth of a baby. The mother delivered her newborn at 12:56am on Sunday morning. It was absolutely amazing. We decided this was worth fudging our one-day, 24-hour format.

My “One Day in North Carolina” story doesn’t end with my last assignment. When I woke up in the morning, my wife, Debbie, reminded me that we had promised to take our kids to the State Fair. Sunday was the last day of the fair. Since I couldn’t let my kids down, we went. I remember being absolutely dead tired. As we were entering the Village of Yesteryear, Deb offered to take the kids inside and suggested I sit down and rest. Man, that sounded AWESOME! I leaned back and closed my eyes. Since I was wearing sunglasses, who would know that I was asleep? When my family came out, they saw me unconscious with sunglasses askew. If that’s not bad enough, I was wearing a Channel 5 jacket with my name embroidered on it!

Here are Rick’s recollections:

Rick Armstrong

Rick Armstrong

In October of ’89, we had what I thought was a stellar staff of photographers.  On any given day, most of us were shooting general news assignments.  Somedays, the assignments were not as visually rich as we would like.  Often the reporters we teamed with didn’t write to our best pictures or natural sound. That’s why this special called “One Day in North Carolina” appealed to us so much. 

The challenge for each of us was that no one would assign us a story.  We had to come up with ideas ourselves. For me, the timing was perfect because the State Fair was drawing huge crowds.  I always enjoyed going out to the Fair to find a feature story – like an artisan showing off his crafts in the Village of Yesteryear or a rural family preparing their favorite cow for a bovine beauty pageant.

 This time I wasn’t rushing in and rushing out to get the story on by 6:00.  I could stay all day and into the night.  As I lugged my camera and gear through the gates, I felt a bit overwhelmed.  What would this slice of life look like? Would this be a photo essay paired with music?  Would I dare to write a few voice tracks to move the story along? 

I decided just to interview a lot of people and capture the buzz of the midway, the steamy aroma rising off sausage and onions on the grill and highlight the fairgrounds’ transformation from sunlit to the bright neon colors of night.

 As I began to piece it all together, I decided to add a few voice tracks. I am so thankful I got the legend himself, Charlie Gaddy, to voice it for me.  I also felt very proud of the variety and quality of stories achieved by the other photographers.

Sadly, it was the first and last time we took on such a project.  I’d love to have another go at it.”

The other photographers found equally eye-catching subjects. Art Howard stood in the doorway of an Army C-130 aircraft flying thousands of feet in the air as would-be Golden Knights, the Army’s elite parachute team, made their jump and plunged toward the ground as they tried out for the team. On another assignment, Mark Copeland was 50 feet up a tree capturing video of Outward Bound rope climbers.

Down in Wilmington, Lori Lair was on the set of a movie being filmed – complete with a staged explosion of a building. According to a quote from Lori that appeared in a news release about the “One Day in NC” project, “The film photographers started their cameras and ran! I thought I should do the same, but Susan Dahlin (Executive Producer of the ‘One Day in NC’ project) convinced me that I would be OK if I stayed. Meanwhile, she went running for cover. Glass was flying everywhere, but luckily none came my way!”

Click on the link below and watch more stories showing a slice-of-North Carolina life that happened on October 14, 1989. From the western mountains to the eastern seashore, you’ll see everything ranging from the Coast Guard crashing through waves along our state’s shores, to lumber-jacks in the mountains competing against one another in a seed-spitting contest.

“One Day in North Carolina” shows why we “like calling North Carolina home.”

Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story & these photos. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.


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